Friday, October 21, 2016

Third party candidates offer unrealistic alternative

by Tom Maertens
Mankato Free Press

Gary Johnson and Bill Weld, the Libertarian Party candidates, say they are running on a platform of fiscal restraint, social freedom and limited involvement overseas.

The two former Republican governors, from New Mexico and Massachusetts respectively, also favor downsizing government and balancing the budget, but differ from mainstream GOP policies in that they support legalizing marijuana and abortion rights.

After that, they veer off into the ozone. Their party platform says they would:
  • Eliminate public schools in favor of private education or home schooling.
  • Abolish Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
  • Abolish the Internal Revenue Service and repeal the federal income tax, which would be replaced by some sort of regressive national sales tax or value added tax.
  • Repeal the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 and let corporations offer even lower wages.
  • Eliminate the Department of Education along with government support for college students.
  • Eliminate the EPA and virtually all environmental regulations, including those governing air pollution and global warming, and those prohibiting dangerous chemicals in drinking water.
It is hard to imagine a platform more favorable to the polluting plutocrats, such as the Koch brothers: no income taxes and no environmental regulations. They would be free to destroy the land, the air and the water in pursuit of their second hundred-billion dollars.

Gary Johnson claimed in 2011 that he takes the long-term view of climate change. “In billions of years,” he said, “the sun is going to actually grow and encompass the Earth, right? So global warming is in our future.” This is another form of climate-change denial.

Johnson also believes that health care should be handled by the private sector, which would mean the elimination of veterans’ hospitals, for example.

He is a strong supporter of Citizens United and believes corporations should be able to spend unlimited funds to influence elections.

Johnson describes himself as a social liberal, but as governor of New Mexico, he ended collective bargaining for state employees and cut off Medicaid funding for abortions deemed medically necessary.

It’s clear Johnson doesn’t know much about foreign affairs, either. He has been unable to answer simple questions about Syria and foreign leaders during interviews. Johnson and Weld oppose “entangling alliances” with other countries or attempts to “act as policeman for the world,” which would mean, among other things, pulling back from NATO and other global alliances. The United States has defense pacts with 69 countries which make up around 75 percent of the world’s economic output.

Johnson and Weld also support a balanced budget amendment that would prevent the government from incurring additional debt, a simplistic solution that sounds good to some, but would eliminate an important counter-cyclical economic tool.

As for Johnson’s tax plan, The Tax Foundation estimated that it would reduce federal revenue by $4.4 trillion to $5.9 trillion over 10 years. That is much like Trump’s tax plan, which The Tax Policy Center said would reduce revenue by $6.2 trillion over 10 years, while bestowing tax benefits on the wealthy, like Trump himself. Hillary Clinton’s plan, in contrast, would increase revenue by $1.4 trillion by increasing taxes on the top one percent.

Johnson also wants to eliminate the corporate income tax, which is nominally 35 percent.

In actuality, some two-thirds of U.S. corporations did not pay any federal income tax from 2006 to 2012, according to a Government Accountability Office study. Profitable U.S. corporations paid, on average, an effective federal income tax rate of 14 percent over the slightly shorter period from 2008 to 2012.

Johnson is on track to win perhaps six percent of the national vote, and much more than that in some states, but has no chance of winning the election. That makes a vote for Johnson/Weld a protest vote. This is attractive to some as a demonstration of moral purity; they can ever after disclaim responsibility for what happens.

It’s not clear which major party candidate would be hurt more by a big third-party vote, but voters should keep in mind what happened in 2000, when Ralph Nader, the Green party candidate, received 92,000 votes in Florida, a state in which Bush allegedly beat Gore by 537 votes. The subsequent recount ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court, which threw the election to Bush.

It’s hard to imagine that a President Al Gore would have invaded Iraq and run the economy into the ground with unfunded programs like the Prescription Drug bill and tax cuts for the wealthy.

Protest votes can have unforeseen consequences.

Tom Maertens served as National Security Council director for nonproliferation and homeland defense under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and as deputy coordinator for counter-terrorism in the State Department during and after 9/11. He lives in Mankato.

(Original here.)

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